From Goofy Kids To Hollywood Hunks

Hollywood can be a tough place to navigate the transition from youth to adulthood. Child actors are usually dorky, awkward little ragamuffins. But to be an adult actor, they need you to look like you were sculpted by Michelangelo.

So making the transition from child actor to adult can be nearly impossible for some to whom nature was not so kind. Some actors, like Josh Saviano (Paul from Wonder Years) simply get out of the business. But some persevere and, with a little help from good genes and a personal trainer, become successful actors as adults.

Seeing the picture of Jonathan Lipnicki that AE recently posted had me thinking about how some boys we remember as looking like this:

Can miraculously turn into guyslike this:

So I thought it would be fun to look at some of the other young actors who have grown up rather nicely. Keep in mind, this list is entirely arbitrary and is in no way comprehensive.

1. Neil Patrick Harris

Well, of course this guy comes to mind. He came to our TV screens as the boy genius Doogie Howser, MD. And really, who doesn’t want to trust their health to a doctor who hasn’t begun shaving yet?

NPH made a successful comeback with How I Met Your Mother, playing a decidedly less squeaky-clean character. As a popular out actor and a proud husband and father, doesn’t he have enough going for him without being this hot?

2. Rick Schroder

When I was a kid, I really identified with Ricky Stratton on Silver Spoons—except for his being rich, having everything he wanted and getting to ride around his house on a miniature train.

The little blond scamp went on to minor roles and was little seen on screen after Spoons. So when it was announced he was joining NYPD Blue, there was skepticism. But when he showed up on screen all grown up and with acting chops to boot, the skeptics all changed their tune.


3. Corbin Bleu

If you have never seen the movie Galaxy Quest, you are doing yourself a disservice. Never has there been a better send up of the Star Trek franchise. But if you have seen it, I bet there’s something you didn’t know. The little boy who played the young Tommy Webber?

It turns out he’s the very one who went on sing and dance his way into the hearts of teenagers everywhere. Now? Well, I believe “Woof!” covers it.


4. Thomas Dekker

Before the trend of turning old TV shows into movies, we had the peculiar trend of turning movies into TV shows. Ah, the 90’s. Every sit com needs a bespeckled munchkin to endear itself to its audience. Thomas provided that service on Honey I Shrunk The Kids: The TV Show.

Thomas is now a household name, with his memorable (if bitterly-debated) stint on Heroes, his turn as John Connor on The Sarah Connor Chronicles and now on The Secret Circle. Taste is subjective, but you have to admit he’s come a long way from that bespeckled kid.

5. Chad Allen

Getting his start on the 80’s hit Simon & Simon, Chad had steady work as a child actor. This was during the time when Hollywood saw nothing peculiar about every child on screen being tow-headed and lily-white. That certainly worked in Chad’s favor.

Chad is also one of our out and proud actors. And he does have a lot to be proud of!


6. Eli Marienthal

If you can’t be adorable and nerdy, you can be loud and obnoxious. That was the way that Eli played the role of Stiffler’s little brother in the movie, American Pie.


At 25 and still working steadily, Eli has emerged from that cocoon of boyish slovenliness as a guy that turns heads.

7. Elijah Wood

Long before he carried on conversations with canines in Wilfred, Elijah (and his eyes, which deserve their own billing) starred in The Good Son.

Now, after destroying the One Ring and sailing into the West, he has grown into a sexy young man with eyes that will either mesmerize you—or possibly make you run home to your mother.


8. Nicholas Hoult

About a Boy brought little Nicholas Hoult to the screen as an odd boy named Marcus. Little Nicholas pulled out all the stops, including wearing a hat that no child should be forced to wear.

Who could have predicted he would go on to play the outrageously hot Tony on BBC’s Skins? In X-Men: First Class he tried to look like your typical nerd. But the glasses only made him hotter.


9. Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Third Rock From the Sun had a stunning cast. John Lithgow and Jane Curtin were so good, in fact, that it was easy to forget about the long-haired moppet named Joseph Gordon-Levitt. An adult alien going through puberty as a young human was one of the funniest parts of the show.

I think it’s safe to say, the talent he demonstrated on that show helped to catapult him to the A-List status he enjoys today. His casual relationship with clothing might also be a factor.

10. Jaleel White

Jaleel wasn’t particularly nerdy as a kid, but once they put the Urkel outfit on him, he made other nerds want to steal his lunch money.

Nowadays, I don’t think even the suspenders and glasses could hide his hotness.


11. Jerry O’Connell

Jerry is known for being deeply uncomfortable with being “the fat kid” (as he says) in Stand By Me. He blushes now (adorably) and quickly moves on to talk about how great the filming experience was because he got to curse.

He may be overcompensating as an adult. But I don’t think we mind. In fact, he can pretty much run around like this all the time.


12. Joaquin Phoenix

Back in the 80’s, a quietly moody boy with a very strange name—Leaf Phoenix—came onto the scene. His serious, penetrating eyes belied his puppyish face.

Those eyes only grew more serious as he got older and took the name of Joaquin. Though he is now experimenting with a homeless-person-chic look, prior to that he was a serious actor who was seriously smoking hot.

13. Matthew Lewis

One of the best things about the Harry Potter movies was the casting. Matthew Lewis was perfect for the role of Neville Longbottom—the overweight kid with no self-esteem.

But just as Neville grew up and turned into a hero equal even to Harry Potter, Matthew Lewis has wandered out of the Forbidden Forest of awkward youth and taken up residence in the Shrieking Shack of hotness.


14. Logan Lerman

When little Logan first came on screen in The Patriot, it seemed his hair weighed more than he did. He wasn’t the only scion of Benjamin Martin to go on to a big career–Gregory Smith (Everwood) and Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) also starred.

Now he’s buckling swashes as D’Artagnan and dealing with grumpy Olympians as Percy Jackson and looking good doing it. Ironically, he seems to have come full circle with his hair. Perhaps he upset someone in the wig department?


15. Seth Green

Stephen King’s It is a wonderful book, so it was a daunting task to find child actors who could take on those roles and do it well. Seth was the perfect choice for the wise-cracking, prank-pulling Ritchie.

He’s still cracking wise, still making jokes, but now he’s one of the hottest gingers out there. This guy was making werewolves sexy back when Taylor Lautner was still teething.

Now I throw it out to you fine folks. What child actors have you seen grow into handsome gentlemen?